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Sweden: Minister Opposes Arctic Oil Drill Ban

(May 15, 2012) On May 2, 2012, Sweden's Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, released a statement on the issue of whether to ban drilling for oil in the Arctic region. He pointed out that while environmental issues are important for the Arctic Ocean, it would be irresponsible and result in lost opportunities to protect the region if Sweden were to advocate a total ban on oil drilling there. His remarks on the possibility of a total ban were that:

In some quarters, people want us to work toward having all these countries prohibit the extraction of oil in the Arctic Ocean.

This is a point of view which currently has a small chance of success.

As long as the extraction is under coastal states' jurisdiction, they also should have the right to decide. Currently, there is no desire by the coastal states to impose a global moratorium.

We would simply hit our heads against the wall and waste the opportunity for progress that now actually exists when it comes to environmental protection in the Arctic. It would hardly be responsible – especially towards the environment. (Arctic Oil Drill Ban Would Be 'Irresponsible': Bildt, THE LOCAL (May 3, 2012); Carl Bildt, Utsiktslöst att förbjuda oljeutvinning i Arktis, NEWSMILL (May 2, 2012).)

Sweden currently holds the Presidency of the Arctic Council. The Council, established in 1996, describes itself as a “high level intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.” (About the Arctic Council, Arctic Council website (Apr. 7, 2011).) The Council consists of eight member states: Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States. It also includes permanent participants to represent the indigenous peoples of the Arctic region. (Id.; Permanent Participants, Arctic Council website (Apr. 27, 2011).)

Bildt praised the work of the Council, which has resulted in an agreement on rescue operations in the Arctic. He says that the next step will be “to launch negotiations on an agreement for cooperation in dealing with the environmental impact of oil exploration in the Arctic, mainly various forms of emissions.” (Arctic Oil Drill Ban Would Be 'Irresponsible': Bildt, supra.)